There’s been a lot of sickness in our house lately, and that means the TV has been on more than usual. One of our house rules is that the sickest person gets to choose the show, and sometimes that’s me.
The kids know better than to complain about my choices and, admittedly, I think they’d watch anything just for the sake of watching something. It’s through this system that I’ve gotten to expose them to some obscure favourites, and sometimes they end up really liking something new.
They were both skeptical when I first turned on an episode of Little House on the Prairie. The colours were dull and the picture was kind of grainy, compared to the crispness of the new HD shows they watch. But all it took was the river-fording scene — with the wagon being thrashed around on the choppy waters — to pique their interest.
(The kids once got confused and called an outhouse an “in-house,” but I refuse to correct them because it’s too cute. So if they ask, the Ingalls family uses an in-house.)
We slowly worked our way through the first season here and there when I was sick (or just tired). It had been years since I’d watched the show, and even then I’d only see a smattering of episodes. (It’s the books I know by heart.)
It made me smile to see how much the kids loved the famous “town party/country party” scenes I remembered from On the Banks of Plum Creek, when mean Nellie Olsen wouldn’t let Laura play with her doll and Laura got even by tricking Nellie into the muddy creek full of leeches.
Our daughter immediately decided the sweet eldest sister, Mary, was her favourite character, and our son laughed jubilantly every time Laura decked somebody (which was … often).
Some of the episodes were a little dark, but there were opportunities to talk about important lessons. The Ingalls family struggled financially and every member of the family worked hard. Christmases were modest and the children were happy to get a single, handmade gift. The winters were difficult and everyone felt lucky to find warm shelter during a bad storm. Nellie Olsen and her equally mean mother provide lots of chances to talk about kindness, too.
I loved when when our daughter had a friend over recently and insisted that instead of their usual “play home” game, they were going to pretend to be in Little House on the Prairie.
She was Mary (of course) and her friend decided to be Baby Carrie, once she heard her options. Our puppy, Annabelle, played Jack the loyal bulldog. I was Ma, and kept saying things like “Please put on the fire, Mary,” and “Be careful Carrie doesn’t wander near the creek.” It was fun, and now I have plans to make a toy slate and maybe a little cookstove.
Because our daughter is named after not one, but two Little House characters — Charlotte for Laura’s treasured ragdoll, and Rose for Laura’s daughter — it makes me ridiculously happy that she’s loving the Ingalls family as much as I do. It’s something special we can watch together, we’re going to start reading the chapter books aloud at night, and now it’s even our go-to pretend game.
Next family vacation spot? The Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum in Mansfield, Missouri! Well, unless the kids discover a museum about the TV character they love the most: SpongeBob Fricking SquarePants.